The Top 10 Tips For College Freshmen

 

 

By: Thompson Imasogie

orientation_sign

Being a freshmen in college is an experience that one will never forget. Whether its your first time attending freshmen orientation, meeting new friends, hooking up with a total stranger at your first frat party, etc.. I it is fair to say that college is a time of not only personal and academic growth, but a time to make new memories and form bonds that last a lifetime. According to the September 18, 2012  article of Psychology Today Dr. Marilyn Price-Mitchell explains that “Going to college is a big step in a child’s life. They will gain new knowledge and meet new friends..experiment with new behavior and reflect on the people they want to become.” So with that said here are The Top 10 Tips For College Freshmen. Now although these tips wont tell you which protein shake to use, or how to hold down your liquor after a wild night, they’ll still serve as a guide to help you maximize your academic and scholastic potential.. after all, we can always get to that other stuff later!

10. Always get enough sleep

As college students we often tend to stay up all night to study and do homework. We feel that since we are young we can stay up late and remain focused the next day. The university Health center at The University of Georgia reports that college students need 6-10 hours of sleep each night and during sleep the brain organizes, sorts and stores what it experienced that day, making it easier to recall later.

 http://www.uhs.uga.edu/sleep/

9.Don’t be afraid to explore

Coming into college few students actually know what they want to major in, the rest of us go into the “undeclared” pool.  Contrary to popular beliefs being an undeclared major is not a bad thing.  Professional staff at University of Alaska Fairbanks say that being undeclared gives students an unbiased chance to see what they really want to do. Once you find what you really like you’ll likely do better with it because it interests you.

 http://www.uaf.edu/gs/beingundecided/

8.Try to make healthy food choices

Making healthy food choices in college as a freshman is hard, but not impossible.  Whatever campus you are at has some type of salad and or vegetable bar, it is up to you to take advantage of it.  Consumer Reports gives a list of some healthy foods that you can make like frozen vegetable steamers, and yogurt. Keeping your body healthy will in turn help keep your brain healthy and working at its best.

http://www.consumerreports.org/cro/news/2013/08/healthyfoodchoicesforcollegestudentsonthego/index.htm

7.Find a great mentor

As a college freshmen, everything is new to you and many times you need a mentor to guide you. Mentorships are important because you are shown the direct way to do things, you do not have to struggle on your own. We say reach out to a junior or senior and ask them for the lay of the land. They will help you steer clear of some of the pitfalls and can show you good study habits as well as the best party spots.

www.beamentor.org

6.Learn how to network

As a freshman one may not be able to see all the benefits of this, but when it comes time to get a professional letter of recommendation,  you will be grateful you learned how to network.  A study at hope college finds that networking is one of the best ways to find internships, post graduation jobs, and many other activities. You can begin building your networking pool with student organizations and campus departments.

 http://www.hope.edu/student/career/resources/Networking.pdf

5.Go to class

No matter how much you don’t want to go, no matter how hard you partied the night before, go to class.  Not only are you wasting a ton of money every class you miss but you are also giving the professor an excuse not to bump your grade if you are on the border.  The University of Texas describes the importance of class by saying you may not only miss assignments, but also the freebies and extra credit a professor may give out. Make sure you do your due diligence to get to class.·         

http://www.uta.edu/universitycollege/current/firstyearstudents/videoadvice/mattontheimportanceofstudyingandgoingtoclass.php

4.Get to know your professors

Getting to know your professors is one of the most important things that you can do.  There are thousands of students in college, there needs to be some way that you stand out.  Knowing your professor could be the difference between an A and a B. It could also be the difference between having a job when you graduate and not having a job when you graduate. As we mentioned networking is really important and your professors are some of the most well connected people on the campus.

 http://collegelife.about.com/od/academiclife/ht/gettoknowprofs.htm

3.Talk to your academic advisor

Talking to academic advisors can save you a ton of money and get you on the right track for success in your college career. For instance many students are unaware that there is a minimum amount of credits that you must take per semester in order to graduate on time.  Advisors may even be nice enough to help you out with scholarships, internships, and advice.

 http://www.siena.edu/pages/2241.asp

2.Learn to plan

Unlike high school one has free range to everything in college girls, parties, and things you could never do with parents around.  Being in this environment causes one to ease up on school work making you miss assignments and important dates.  Planning can save your life, having things written down weeks in advance could potentially allow you to go to the party of the year and also be ready for a test the next morning. According to “The Importance of Career Planning” by Bright Hub that same planning could help you prepare for your post graduation career.

 http://www.brighthub.com/education/college/articles/69462.aspx

1. Get involved

Getting involved is not only great for a resume but it is also a way to make friends, and get your name heard around campus.  Students at Marietta College reflect back on campus involvement saying that it is a great way to find yourself because you are trying things you have never done before. So  find something that you’re interested in or something you’ve never tried and get involved.

 http://news2.marietta.edu/node/1660

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Eating Your Stress Away

overeatingBy: Miranda Lapides

The closer midterms were approaching last week, the more I was reaching for my notes and textbooks sprawled out on my desk before me. I also found myself going for midnight pizza at Pilot House and a slice of my favorite pistachio cake at IndAroma I know I did not need. We’ve all been guilty of snacking more during difficult or stressful times, but what makes our bodies crave these foods that are rich in fat and sugar? People throw around the term “comfort food” but fail to realize the science behind it.

When you are feeling stressed or in danger, your body produces a hormone called cortisol, also known as “the stress hormone.” This hormone causes temporary changes in the body such as an increase in heart rate, attentiveness, and energy. This emergency response system helps the body be more alert during times of stress, and it eventually has the ability to turn itself off once the stress is gone. When cortisol is sent back to the brain, it stops the body’s production of the hormone.

But what happens when it seems as though the stress cannot go away? This is known in the psychology world as “chronic stress.” When this occurs, the emergency response system does not turn itself off and can negatively affect the body. It does not stop producing cortisol, which can lead to the body using up too much energy to protect itself in times of stress. This excess of energy leads to anxiety and hyper alertness. This is where food comes in: treats high in sugars and fats give your body the energy it used up to combat stress. Fat is pretty useful for the body in numerous ways, one acting as a signal to the brain, telling it to turn off the stress response. Otherwise, the body uses up all of its energy which it needs to survive.

Snacking may help the body adjust to stress, but eventually it leads to overeating and health problems. Overeating leads to weight gain and depression, which could create a vicious cycle of more stress. Women are more likely to turn to food to handle stress while men are more likely to drink alcohol and smoke. Women are also more likely to engage in emotional eating, which is when one becomes dependent on eating to satisfy more than hunger.

The good news is that it is easy to overcome problems such as overeating, emotional eating, and stress altogether. First, it is important to be aware and realize that you are overeating due to stress. Ask yourself some questions such as: Do you eat more when you’re stressed? Do you eat to feel better? Does food make you feel safe? Do you feel out of control around food? If you have answered “yes” to at least some of these questions, you may be overly dependent on food in times of stress.

To stop overeating and beat stress, exercise. I can’t stress how important it is not just for your body but also for your mind. Personally, spending even as little as twenty minutes at Skyline on the elliptical machine makes me feel better. Take up yoga or meditation. There are free classes provided on campus at least once a week. Healthy activities such as these activate the same pleasure centers in the brain that cause us to crave food.

Stress is inevitable in college. While you’re hitting the books for your exams, try to not let it get to you. If you feel it creeping over your shoulder, be aware. If you’re craving sweets, don’t be afraid to reward yourself every now and then because you deserve it. Make sure to not overdo it, though, and replace sweets with healthy snacks if you must. Good luck, fellow Patriots!

Sources

Marano, H. E. (2003, Nov. 21). Stress and eating. Psychology Today. Retrieved from http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200311/stress-and-eating.

Smith, M. & Segal, J. (2013). Emotional eating. HelpGuide.org. Retrieved from http://www.helpguide.org/life/emotional_eating_stress_cravings.htm.

(2012). Why stress causes people to overeat. Harvard Health Publications. Retrieved from http://www.health.harvard.edu/newsletters/Harvard_Mental_Health_Letter/2012/February/why-stress-causes-people-to-overeat.

Link

Foreword by Christi Sabin

Technology can be a very useful tool in our day-to-day lives. However, the problem arises with the overuse of technology.  It’s not so much the technology itself, rather the extent to which the user uses it. While cell phones and social media in theory help us keep in better contact with our friends and family, the overuse of such tools tend to have the opposite effect. I know for me personally, I don’t hang-out with my friends to watch them play on their smartphones…I actually don’t have a smartphone…and I call them out on this when it happens. This links to what is mentioned in the following article about staying present in the moment, so just something to think about and consider while reading this…perhaps we don’t have to go to the extremes that this particular guy did, but there is something that we can all learn from him about when to just say ‘No’ to technology:

Man who doesn’t use cell phone or social media

The Wound-Up Clock

By: Francesco Yepez-CoelloImage

Sleep habits in students not just in this campus, but nationwide, are very poor, as a survey of college students ages 18-25 reports. Many of us exhibit poor habits, such as difficulty falling asleep, staying up too late and not getting enough sleep, and as a result feeling drained of energy throughout their day, and midafternoon napping (Ram et al., 2010). That list must sound very familiar, huh? And I’m sure it’s got you as wound up as it’s gotten me in the past.

These bad habits are serious, because our neural networks associated with new learning are reactivated during sleep (Rasch & Born, 2006), and not sleeping consequently tanks performance in any memory or learning task (Bom, Rasch, & Gais, 2006). Sleeping literally repairs our brains, like a very soothing massage to each individual neuron, as they are often over worked throughout the daily grind.

But why does that matter, we can stay up forever and still get a decent grade in MATH 108 right? Sure, but not sleeping enough or having irregular schedules can be a serious detriment to more than just academics. Our memories also affect how well we will remember when to meet our friends for lunch, when a certain assignment was due in class, when and where an important Chapter meeting was, etc; and not sleeping affects whether or not we will remember these and function well in our personal lives.

Although the above examples are minor inconveniences if they arise once or twice, they can be damaging if chronic. These unhealthy sleep behaviors are present in patients diagnosed with some of the most prevalent psychological disorders in the US, such as depression and manic-depressive disorder (Dahl & Lewin, 2002). This is because we have much less energy- not just physically, but emotionally, to deal with stress if we have not slept well or long. Not sleeping well means not living well.

The best way to avoid these problems is to adopt a better sleeping regiment. This is no easy feat, as any of us who have had to cram for finals can attest to, but I’m here to help. Following my tips will be difficult the very first day, but each subsequent day will be easier than the last.

Start off your day waking up at a reasonable time, an hour or so earlier than you usually wake up if you have a habit of waking up at or after noon. If you have class early in the morning, try not to nap in the afternoon to “catch up,” as napping will prolong your sleeping woes. Eat a light, but healthy breakfast- nothing that will give you the Itis.

Throughout the day, in between your regular activities, try to use your free time productively. The brain regulates our sleeping patterns based on how we are being stimulated, with reduced activation of areas sending signals that will leave us tired, contrary to what you may intuitively think. Studies show that sleep is regulated by two distinct physiological mechanisms, the homeostatic and circadian processes. One regulates the levels of arousal in the body, while the other determines whether we remain awake or fall asleep based on those levels. In other words, we can control our sleep schedules based on how “excited” our brains are. The more novel an activity, the more resources we use to perform it, therefore the higher levels of arousal will tell our brain to stay awake. Like an alarm clock telling us when to go to sleep.

(Borbely, 1982; Czeisler et al., 1986; Moore, 1999)

So spend your hours on an activity that you have not done before, or have not for a long time. Hit the gym and exercise for an hour. If getting swole isn’t your thing, try out one of the yoga or dance classes offered on campus with a friend. On your next meal, try eating something you have never tasted before. If you have access to a kitchen, make it yourself! Borrow a friend’s guitar and teach yourself how to play a song. All this will give you more energy to continue on with your day, instead of leaving you lethargic as many mindless hours doing the same thing over and over again might.

Then, at the end of the long day, it’s best to enjoy a few minutes of light reading before heading into the wacky world of our dreams. However, most of us tend to relax at night by catching up on our favorite tv shows or browsing the internet for a while. The reason this is unhealthy is because those activities tend to involve artificial lighting. Artificial light sends melatonin, a hormone which keeps us awake, to our brains, the same way that the sun does during normal waking hours. So continued exposure to light even at night time is tricking our bodies into thinking we are still supposed to remain awake, which is why it’s best to be in the dark or very dim light in the moments before bed.

Okay, but if you NEED to watch the latest episode of How I Met Your Mother before the new one airs on Monday, go to your laptop’s settings and put the brightness to minimum, that way your brain knows it’s beddy bye time.

The first day of this routine will be the hardest, but if you fill your day with new, fun and challenging experiences, you will WANT to go to bed early. After a long day of exercising our brains, it can finally unwind in the hot, relaxing baths of our sleeping state. I hope these tips helped, and that you wake up tomorrow full of energy and as ready to tackle what’s ahead as I am.

Sources

Bom, J., Rasch, ?., & Gais, S. (2006). Sleep to remember. Neuroscientist, 12, 410-424. doi:10.1177/1073858406292647

Borbely, A. A. (1982). A two process model of sleep regulation. Human Neurobiology, 1, 195-204

Dahl, R. E., & Lewin, D. S. (2002). Pathways to adolescent health sleep regulation and behavior. Journal of Adolescent Health, 31, 175-184. doi: 1 0. 1 0 1 6/S 1 054- 1 39X(02)00506-2

Ram, Saravanan; Seirawan, Hazem; Kumar, Satish K; S; Clark, Glenn T. Sleep and Breathing14.1 (Feb 2010): 63-70.

Peigneux, P., Laureys, S., & Fuchs, S. (2004). Are spatial memories strengthened in the human hippocampus during slow wave sleep? Neuron, 44, 535-545. doi:10.1016/j.neuron.2004.10.007

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Melatonin#Circadian_rhythm

http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=itis

Will you be feeling SAD this winter?

By: Christi Sabin

Photo by chop1n, obtained from Flickr under Creative Commons license.

Photo by chop1n, obtained from Flickr under Creative Commons license.

The days are getting shorter, and there’s a chill in the air, signs that winter is well on its way. While some people may feel a bit bummed-out that the summer is now behind them, for others, it’s much more than a yearning for one last trip to the beach. For some, the colder season can mean a time of drastic emotional changes that they just can’t seem to shake. It could be more than just a case of the ‘winter blues’, in reality, this could mean that they may be experiencing what is called Seasonal Affective Disorder (SAD).

What exactly is SAD, and what are the symptoms?

SAD is a depressive disorder that is recurring in individuals mostly in the fall and winter, although occasionally it can be the warmer season that triggers the symptoms. The symptoms are similar to those of other depressive disorders, including fatigue, feelings of hopelessness, loss of interest in activities, irritability, and overeating or oversleeping. According to the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual-5th Edition (DSM-V) the following criteria constitutes a possible diagnosis of SAD: depressive episodes recurring at certain times of the year, if two major depressive episodes have occurred in the last 2 years with no nonseasonal episodes at other times of the year, or if seasonal major depressive episodes significantly outweigh the number of nonseasonal episodes during the course of a person’s life. These criteria are listed as a specifier for depressive disorders, rather than a separate diagnosis, meaning that a person will be demonstrating the symptoms of Major Depressive Disorder (MDD), but they do not fully meet the criteria, so it would be diagnosed as MDD ‘with seasonal pattern’.

What causes SAD?

The lack of light experienced in the shorter days is thought to affect the levels of melatonin in the body, which regulates our sleep patterns. The idea has also been postulated that the human body responds to the changing of the seasons as the rest of nature does, but that society expects us to stay active, which causes feelings of guilt, which can then manifest into feelings of depression.

Who is affected by SAD?

SAD can affect anyone at any time in their life, although there are certain individuals who may be at a higher risk. More women than men experience SAD. It is also more common in younger people, including children, adolescents, and young adults. People living at higher latitudes also have increased risk. People with a family history of mental health disorders are also at an increased risk. Overall, approximately half a million Americans have SAD.

How do I know if I have SAD?

If you have these symptoms during more than just a certain time of year, it could be due to another underlying mental health disorder, such as MDD. There could also potentially be a physical cause of the symptoms, so also check with your physician to make sure there isn’t a medical reason for your symptoms. Also, if your symptoms are the result of something circumstantial that happens to you at a certain time of year, this could also be the cause. It is recommended that you consult with your physician or a mental health professional to get a proper diagnosis.

What are the treatment options for SAD?

Light therapy has become a popular way of treating the effects of SAD. A special light box is used by the individual for about 30 minutes per day, and the recommended intensity of light is 10,000 lux. Another helpful technique is negative ion therapy, which can also be found in some light boxes so that you get a combined effect, such as this one from Amazon: NatureBright-SunTouch-Plus-Light-Therapy. Seeking treatment with a therapist may also be beneficial. Medication is a potential option as well. Various natural remedies can be useful, including herbs such as St. John’s wort, ginkgo biloba, and Siberian ginseng; as well as vitamin supplements such as B-vitamins, L-tyrosine, and zinc. Any combination of these options could help alleviate the symptoms of SAD, however It is recommended that you consult your physician or a mental health professional before starting any type of treatment plan.

Resources:

GMU Fairfax Campus Counseling and Psychological Services Center: 703-993-2380

Suicide Hotlines:

National Hopeline Network: 1-800-SUICIDE (1-800-784-2433)

National Suicide Prevention Hotline: 1-899-273-TALK (1-800-273-8255)

References:

American Psychological Association. (2006). Bright Lights, Big Relief. Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/research/action/light.aspx

American Psychiatric Association. (2013). Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental  Disorders, Fifth Edition. Arlington, VA: American Psychiatric Publishing.

DeAngelis, T. (2006, February). Promising new treatments for SAD. Monitor on Psychology, 37(2), Retrieved from http://www.apa.org/monitor/feb06/sad.aspx

Balch, J.F., & Balch, P.A. (1997). Prescription for Nutritional Healing, Second Edition. Garden City Park, NY: Avery Publishing Group.

Blaszczak, J.  (2005). 10 Things You Didn’t Know About Seasonal Affective Disorder. Psych Central. Retrieved on October 10, 2013, from http://psychcentral.com/lib/10-things-you-dont-know-about-seasonal-affective-disorder/0002

National Alliance on Mental Illness. (2004). Seasonal Affective Disorder. Retrieved from http://www.nami.org/Content/ContentGroups/Helpline1/Seasonal_Affective_Disorder_%28SAD%29.htm 

National Center for Biotechnology Information, National Institute of Health, U.S. National Library of Medicine. (2013). Seasonal affective disorder. Retrieved from http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0002499/

GMU’s Undergrad Psych Blog: Welcome Mason!

Hey everyone,

Welcome Mason! The GMU Undergrad Psych Blog is a new and creative way for undergraduate psychology majors to express themselves through a wide variety of posts ranging from research here on campus, the latest in psyc news, ones personal take on various social issues and how it relates to psychology, programs/events on campus that are psychology related, and much more. The idea for the blog was sparked this past summer during the George Zimmerman Murder Trial, a case that had huge social and legal implications. Before, during, and after the trial many Mason students took it upon themselves to express their beliefs on social media. Moreover, several posts not only expressed the details of the case (and ones opinion associated with it) but also how the trial was able to shape and mold their social perceptions of how they not only view themselves but others as well.  While reading some of the comments it was apparent that many GMU students were in need of an outlet that allowed them to express themselves in a setting that was not only informative but specific to their area of interest and educational pursuits. Thus, the first meeting for the GMU Undergraduate Psych Blog took place Wednesday September 11th, 2013 and has remained progressive ever since!

If you are interested, or just want to inquire more about the newsletter, feel free to send an email to gmupsychblog@gmail.com ,or you can send an email to any of the following:
Thompson Imasogie at timasogi@masonlive.gmu.edu
Pierre Durrant at pdurant@masonlive.gmu.edu
Montrel Tennesse at mtenness@gmu.edu
Thank you and enjoy the blog!
-ThompsonImage